When a loved one passes away, we want to do everything we can to ensure that their funeral service is a perfect reflection of their life, loves and wishes. But that can put a lot of pressure on the family, and it can be hard to know where to start. I have therefore put together some tips on creating a funeral tribute or eulogy to guide any of my clients who would like me to write a tribute or who would like to write one themselves.
I am of course very happy to read contributions on behalf of anyone who doesn’t feel able to stand up themselves. Please don’t feel obliged to include everything. Also, if you don’t have time to look at the notes it is not a problem; we can talk things over when we speak next. Please be assured that you will be able to see and edit anything I write for the script of the service of the tribute well in advance.
Procedures & facilities
As previously mentioned, I am happy to read on behalf of anyone or just be ‘in the wings’ if they would like to deliver something themselves. I do ask for a copy in advance (in Word) to help me time the service, for my own reference and also to include in the full script that I usually send after the service.
You may also be interested to know that some crematoriums have facilities to provide a slide show of photographs or live stream the service and/or recordings on DVD. You might also be able to display a single photo on the screen. Please do ask about availability and costs if you are keen to explore these ideas further.
Purpose of the funeral Tribute
A tribute, eulogy or funeral speech is a an opportunity to pay tribute to the person who has died by giving a short speech about their life and what they meant to you. It’s regarded as an honour to be asked to give a tribute for a loved one or friend. Share the responsibility by asking someone to deliver part of the tribute or break it up a bit by telling an anecdote or reading a special message or poem.
If you’re feeling anxious about the responsibility of ‘getting it right,’ remember that every tribute is meant to be unique. Although there are guidelines you can follow, writing a tribute is also about things that come from the heart.
Start by talking to family members and close friends about the person who has died. Is there anything that they would like you to include, such as a favourite anecdote or memory they’d like to share? Looking through photos can also help you to recall things that happened during their life.
Reflect on how well you knew the person whose life you are talking about, remembering times you spent together, examples of their personality, how you met, the time you realised what they meant to you, or how they helped you.
“Charlie was a hard working family man who was always there when you needed him.”
Gather the information and make some notes about where each bit will fit. It is not essential for everything to be in chronological order or precisely dated. But doing a timeline of the person’s key life moments may help you to better decide what to include in your speech.
Make a list of key words that you feel best describe the person. Think of as many as you can, then choose which words you think are best. These words might help to develop a running theme or get you moving if you struggle whilst writing the tribute.
Write a concluding summary at the end to finish on a positive note.
“Seeing so many people here for Charlie today shows just how much he was loved and appreciated, and how much he will be missed.”
How long should a tribute be?
The average length for a tribute is 500-1000 words, but this can vary according to time allowances for each crematorium. Please check if unsure.
Generally, around 3-5 minutes long and no longer than 10 minutes is ideal. A 500-word tribute usually takes around 5 minutes to read (100 words per minute is a good speed).
Practice your delivery by reading it out loud, on your own or in front of someone you trust for feedback. Edit it down if it’s too long and have someone (like me) ready to take over if you struggle emotionally.
Topics usually covered in the Tribute
The final decision of what to include will always come down to you. However, you may wish to include some, if not all, of the following:
Key people and dates:
- Parents’ names and occupations
- Place and date of birth
- Siblings in order of birth
- Any particular close relations
- Places they lived at different times
- Any nicknames they had
- Schools attended (how they got on, any close school friends, talents and successes, extra curricular activities)
- Any military service
- Special friends
- Relationships and marriages (date and place of wedding, place of meeting
- Children (names and DOB)
- Work history/achievements/colleagues.
Interests, talents and personality:
- Books, films, sports, hobbies, clubs, theatre, galleries, TV, city or country lover, etc
- Favourite poems, songs or quotes
- Sporting achievements
- Anything they have contributed to the community
- Clubs and society memberships
- Personality (what was special/notable about them, what type of person were they, friends’ views
- Any anecdotes reflecting any of the above.
Below is an example of a tribute to give you an idea of how you might like to make the information flow.
Ann was born in Kings Heath on 23rd March 1938 to Bridget and Lawrence Shepherd. Her father was a production manager at Birds and she had one younger sister, Mary, whom I’m delighted to welcome here today.
It was a happy childhood and Ann was close to both parents and her sister. Together they enjoyed many happy holidays down at her Grandparents farm in Norfolk and she often spoke about those days with great fondness.
Ann was a bright, intelligent child and attended Edgbaston High school for girls where she did well, being particularly interested and excelling in English and Art.
She was a friendly though, quiet, reserved soul and enjoyed reading all her life. Fiction, biographies, anything really, if it was there she would read it.
On leaving school Ann went to work as an Administrator at South Birmingham College and then subsequently at Birmingham University. It was here that she met and fell in love with Frank, a lecturer in engineering.
They were married on 22nd June 1963 at Birmingham registry office and began their married life in Rowley crescent, Hagley. Ann would often talk about the heavy rain that year and how their house was flooded twice because they had a stream in the back garden.
In 1966 they welcomed their daughter , Sally into the world. Sally was joined by her brother Derek in 1967 and Ann and Frank settled into contented family life.
Ann was a devoted and caring mother in every way and loved her family dearly. She created a warm , secure environment and was very encouraging but never pushy or demanding. Ann firmly believed in letting them be themselves.
They have fond memories of her helping them with heir school work and playing board games in the evenings. The also recall playing cricket in the garden and generally having a lot of fun.
Ann was an excellent knitter and made many lovely jumpers. She made beautiful numerous shawls for the premature babies at the hospital.
The family enjoyed fabulous times in Devon and Cornwall, always setting off at the crack of dawn and stopping on the way for one of Ann’s famous picnics from her grandmas wicker picnic basket.
Just before the children began school the family moved to Damson Avenue in Halesowen. It was a “new build” which meant they were able to be involved in the planning of their own house and choose an extra large garden plot. It was situated in a Cul-de-Sac and Sally and Derek recall an idyllic childhood, playing freely and being part of a wonderful community. I am delighted to say some of their neighbours, from those days, including her good friends Julie and Janet, are here today.
Ann was a very shrewd lady, always practical with a no nonsense approach to things. She dressed for comfort and ease and was a very able house wife, although she always had more interesting things to do than housework. Ann prided herself on be careful with spending. She liked baking and even made her own bread and a full English breakfast would be ready each day at 7.30 am to get Frank off to a good start before work.
Ann enjoyed cooking but had a tendency to rely on the smoke alarm to tell her when things were ready! Ann also had a fine sense of humour and was able to laugh at herself. Although her children would say, with them around, she had no choice. Together with Frank she decorated their home and set about creating a beautiful landscaped garden over the years. They spent hours in their garden, with Ann growing her own bedding plants from seed in the greenhouse. She loved nothing more than to sit back in the sun with a glass of white wine and appreciated her hard work.
The years rolled by and Ann and Frank lived a quiet, peaceful life with their dogs Ozzie and Millie. Terry Wogan or WM on the radio, doing jigsaws and crosswords, keeping their tropical fish and watching gardening programmes or Casualty and Neighbours. Ann was enormously proud of her children and remained on hand with support and advice all her life.
Ann certainly had her opinions but was more inclined to keep them to herself and that certainly was the case with regard to politics. Although she had some quite strong opinions, she would never be drawn if the subject came up.
Ann welcomed her children’s partners Peter and Alison into the family as her own and was delighted to become a grandmother to Robbie, and Martin, Joanie, Ben, Tim and Georgie.
She loved them all dearly. Her home was full of photos of them all and she loved to hear about their adventures.
Sadly, Ann’s world was shattered when Frank died quite unexpectedly in 2004.
She had been dedicated to Frank and missed him terribly, but remained stoical and strong. After a while she joined a number of clubs to fill the void he had left. The local WI and the st Michael’s church women’s Guild. She made many friends through her interests. After Frank’s death Ann ventured abroad and experienced the delights of foreign travel with her sister Mary to Spain and Greece. But home was definitely where Ann’s heart was.
Five years ago Ann moved to St Andrew’s Care Home for the professional care and support she needed. There she became a well loved resident and made firm friends with many of the staff. There was something about Ann that drew people to her.
Quiet, unassuming, considerate and always loving, Ann will be missed by all who had the privilege of being part of her world.
Advice on delivering a tribute
After all your hard work writing the perfect tribute, you’ll want to try to deliver it as best as you can at the service – but remember I am always there to take over if it all gets too much. Here are some tips on achieving the best style of delivery:
- When reading your tribute at the service, remember to speak fairly slowly. Everyone wants to hear the words you have prepared.
- Pause to give weight to particular things or to allow time for the audience to laugh if you say something humorous.
- Give eye contact or at least look up and try to look towards anyone you mention by name to make them feel included.
- Stand nice and still. Tapping fingers or feet can distract people from what you are saying. Keep breathing and think about how you are getting the message across rather than how you feel. Think about how loud, fast, clearly and interestingly you are delivering the words. This will help you deliver it really well.
Please be aware that in respect of current GDPR regulations all personal details and scripts will be kept until the service is concluded. They will then be deleted along with the script and any email correspondence.